Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Sea, sun, sand and placards
We arrived at our destination in the Old Port, the Naval Museum. San Sebastián was for centuries little more than a fishing village, but by 1174 it was granted self-governing status by the kingdom of Navarra for whom the bay was the principal outlet to the sea. Whale and cod fishing were the main occupations along with the export of Castilian products to European ports and then to the Americas. Years of knockabout trans-European conflicts included the razing of the city by Anglo-Portuguese forces during the Peninsular War.
We had fairly high expectations of the museum, which is housed in a mid eighteenth century consulate. The museum housed two floors of paintings showing the Basque sea heritage but that was it, no boats, no astrolabes and compasses, just the paintings.
After a pintxos lunch with lovely concoctions of Serrano ham, sausage, bright green padron peppers, shrimp, crab and eggs we headed to the beach to join the throngs on the sand. We followed in the footsteps of 19th-century Spanish royalty who came here to escape the searing heat of the southern mesas (tableland). We were fortunate in visiting at low tide, which left plenty of room for everyone on the beach. At high tide we would have been crammed into a narrow strip of sand. We had our first swim in the Bay of Biscay, getting battered around a bit in the sea.
In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant that was showing the England vs Uruguay soccer game. We arrived at the beginning of the game and managed to string out the whole meal to the end of the meal and the unfortunate end for England.